In the Book Review of the past Bulletin I presented the book "China Free" that deals with a life style without using goods made in China. An American tells there her experience of how difficult it is to live, even just one year, without goods made in China. The film I present here explains how such commodities that have invaded in great quantities the American market are produced in China.
Jasmine, the heroin of the film, was born in a village of Sichuan province in China. She leaves for the city at the age of 16 to help her family. She works and lives in the workers' residence of a factory that produces jeans to be exported to the United States of America and Japan.
The manager of the factory was a former chief of police who, proudly claiming to be a magnanimous executive imposes on the workers long working hours and low wages, in order to meet the strict demands of foreign companies for the delivery of goods. He thinks normal to have to work 12 or even 16 hours, a day, in order to make fast delivers of jeans demanded. From time to time, employees have to work continually even 27 hours. Nevertheless, the wages remain between 200 ~ 500 Chinese Yuan (US$29 - $72). And if people are found asleep or leave work without permission they will be fined 50 or 100 Yuan. The manager claims: "This poor people need discipline. They could kill anybody to get a small amount of money."
This way, this factory with 750 workers makes 3,000 pieces of jeans a day, and 100 thousand a month. The process requires many steps like, cutting and sewing the pieces of cloth, adjusting the zipper, iron the jeans and packing them, etc. Jasmine that just started her job works in the disposal of the thread left over. She cuts it and brushes the pieces of cloth. She manages to finish tens of jeans spending over 15 hours a day.
This way one pair of jeans will be sold in western countries for tens of US dollars or several thousand yen. Out of that, the amount corresponding to the cost of 15 or 16 persons required to produce a pair of jeans comes to about 1 dollar (100 yen) or 8 yen per worker.
Beijing Olympics have safely finished and China continues excited by the good business times. China has climbed to world number four in his Gross Domestic Products (GDP), after the USA, Japan and Germany, although the per capita account remains low, after Vietnam and Russia. It is believed that China will overcome Japan in the year 2020 and the United States of America in 2040. The main motive is cheap labor that predominates in price competition. Nevertheless, China with its Chinese factories considered to be nowadays "the World Factory" is, in fact, the hotbed of exploitation and bad working conditions.
The director of the film is Swiss-born Micha X. Peled. In his former film: "STORE WARS: When Wal-mart comes to Town" he exposes the radical changes provoked in a small town by the coming of a big super-market. The present film traces the process of how the goods sold at Wal-mart were produced. The production of this film, avoiding being caught by police and with the help of underground labor unionists, is, without any doubt, a master educational tool in "globalization."
[Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo]